The new crime museum Alcatraz East in Pigeon Forge opens to the public on Friday and we had a sneak peak at the fascinating exhibits.
Local officials and special guests celebrated the new crime museum with a grand opening ribbon cutting ceremony on Thursday evening. Pigeon Forge Mayor David Wear joined museum owner, John Morgan, and Chief Operating Officer Janine Vaccarello in cutting a strip of crime scene tape used for a ribbon. The attraction officially opens to the public on Dec. 16, 2016.
“Last year we experienced record high visitors to our area,” said Mayor Wear, “We know that this attraction will enhance our visitors’ family entertainment while staying with us.”
Sitting on the corner of the Parkway and entrance to The Island, the Alcatraz East 19th century prison façade was inspired by the historic Alcatraz Penitentiary and stands in stark contrast to the western-themed Stages West next door. A prisoner in iconic black and white striped prison uniform attempts escape from a window on the imposing stone exterior.
Inside the 25,000 square feet, two-story museum, there are over 100 interactive exhibits that can be enjoyed by all ages. The self-guided tour covers the history of American crime, the consequences of crime, crime scene investigation, crime fighting, and pop culture. An audio tour is also available.
Many activities are especially designed for kids, including a series of interactive games from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, a museum partner, that teach children what to do in certain potentially unsafe situations.
Highlights of the crime museum include John Dillinger’s death mask, Al Capone’s rosary, a Bonnie & Clyde collection, OJ Simpson’s famous white Bronco, Al Pacino’s submachine gun from the movie Scarface, items related to the 2012 Benghazi attack, the latest in law enforcement technology, and a variety of other artifacts.
“Crime is part of history, and oftentimes crimes lead to laws and then those laws create change. The good news is learning about it often leads to crime prevention,” states Vaccarello, “Whether you want to try out your CSI skills or look at Ted Bundy’s infamous VW Bug, we definitely have something of interest for everyone at Alcatraz East Crime Museum.”
A special exhibit is dedicated to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and honors the police and firefighters lost that day. Benches are provided for people to sit while viewing a short film and perhaps remembering where they were that day.
Another section of Alcatraz East is dedicated to law enforcement, with firearms on display and artifacts such as a bomb squad robot.
A variety of artifacts are native to crime and punishment right here in Tennessee, including the polygraph machine used on Martin Luther King assassin James Earl Ray, along with items belonging to outlaw Jesse James, confiscated moonshine stills, a display on Dr. William Bass of the Body Farm, and Tennessee police badges. A centerpiece of the new museum is Tennessee’s electric chair “Old Smokey” that was used in 125 executions between 1916 and 1960. The museum also features numerous Tennessee stories, such as the Scopes Monkey Trial, Sheriff Buford Pusser, and the Wild Bunch.
Alcatraz East is something that Morgan, attorney and founder of the Morgan & Morgan law firm, had always envisioned. No stranger to Pigeon Forge or running successful attractions, he also owns WonderWorks just down the street from Alcatraz East. He has assembled a star-studded board of advisors, including a Navy Seal, warden, medical examiner, law enforcement, and Judge Belvin Perry who is best known for presiding over the Casey Anthony trial that contribute to the museum’s mission of education.
Alcatraz East Crime Museum is located at 2757 Parkway in Pigeon Forge.